Doctor speaks with patient about medical conditions related to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Aging is one of the most common hearing loss clues and let’s face it, as hard as we may try, we can’t avoid aging. But were you aware loss of hearing has also been connected to between
loss issues
that are treatable, and in certain circumstances, can be avoided? You may be surprised by these examples.

1: Diabetes

Over 5,000 American adults were looked at in a 2008 study which revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to have some amount of hearing loss when screened with low or mid-frequency sounds. Impairment was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but not as serious. The researchers also found that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in a nutshell, individuals with blood sugar levels that are higher, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, were more likely by 30 % than people who had normal blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (that’s right, a study of studies) determined that the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss was persistent, even when taking into account other variables.

So the connection between hearing loss and diabetes is quite well founded. But why would you be at greater risk of getting diabetes simply because you suffer from hearing loss? Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes is related to a number of health problems, and particularly, the eyes, extremities and kidneys can be injured physically. One hypothesis is that the condition may impact the ears in a similar manner, blood vessels in the ears being harmed. But overall health management might be to blame. A 2015 study underscored the link between loss of hearing and diabetes in U.S veterans, but in particular, it revealed that those with unchecked diabetes, in essence, people suffered worse if they had uncontrolled and untreated diabetes. It’s necessary to have your blood sugar tested and talk with a doctor if you believe you may have undiagnosed diabetes or might be pre-diabetic. It’s a smart idea to have your hearing checked if you’re having a hard time hearing also.

2: Falling

OK, this is not exactly a health issue, since we aren’t discussing vertigo, but having a bad fall can trigger a cascade of health issues. And while you might not realize that your hearing could affect your likelihood of slipping or tripping, research from 2012 uncovered a substantial link between hearing loss and risk of a fall. While investigating over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, investigators discovered that for every 10 dB rise in loss of hearing (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the risk of falling increased 1.4X. Even for people with slight loss of hearing the link held up: Within the previous 12 months people who had 25 dB of hearing loss were more likely to have fallen than people with normal hearing.

Why would you fall because you are having trouble hearing? There are a number of reasons why hearing problems can lead to a fall aside from the role your ears play in balance. Although the exact reason for the individual’s falls wasn’t looked at in this study,, the authors theorized that having problems hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) might be one issue. But it could also go the other way if difficulty hearing means you’re concentrating on sounds rather than paying attention to your surroundings, it might be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that dealing with loss of hearing could possibly minimize your chance of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

A number of studies (such as this one from 2018) have revealed that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have found that high blood pressure could actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. It’s a connection that’s been found fairly consistently, even while controlling for variables like whether or not you smoke or noise exposure. Gender is the only variable that seems to make a difference: The link between high blood pressure and loss of hearing, if your a male, is even stronger.

Your ears are quite closely related to your circulatory system: Two main arteries are very near to the ears as well as the tiny blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why people with high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is ultimately their own blood pumping. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you’re hearing your own pulse.) The leading theory for why high blood pressure can quicken loss of hearing is that high blood pressure can also do permanent damage to your ears. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force every time it beats. The smaller blood vessels in your ears could potentially be damaged by this. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be managed. But if you believe you’re suffering with hearing loss even if you think you’re not old enough for the age-related problems, it’s a good decision to speak with a hearing specialist.

4: Dementia

Loss of hearing may put you at higher risk of dementia. A six year study, started in 2013 that analyzed 2,000 individuals in their 70’s revealed that the chance of mental impairment increased by 24% with only slight loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same research group which tracked subjects over more than 10 years found that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more probably it was that they would develop dementia. (They also discovered a similar connection to Alzheimer’s Disease, even though it was less significant.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at 3X the risk of a person with no hearing loss; severe hearing loss nearly quintuples one’s risk.

But, even though experts have been successful at documenting the link between loss of hearing and cognitive decline, they still aren’t sure as to why this occurs. If you can’t hear well, it’s hard to socialize with people so the theory is you will avoid social interactions, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. Another hypothesis is that loss of hearing short circuits your brain. In other words, trying to hear sounds around you fatigues your brain so you may not have much energy left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. Maintaining social ties and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can treating loss of hearing. Social scenarios become much more overwhelming when you are struggling to hear what people are saying. So if you are coping with loss of hearing, you need to put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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